As parents, one of the most important decisions we make for our kids is the food we choose for them. Food preferences, tastes and habits start early in life and we can teach our kids to love healthy options by starting them off with the freshest, most delicious options. There is even research that shows that a mother’s food choices while she is pregnant have an effect on her baby’s food preferences later in life. With a culture that tells us that babies, toddlers and kids hate to eat healthy, how can we ensure that our kids choose good food options and actually enjoy fruits and vegetables? The key is introducing healthy options early on to show them that fruits and veggies are not just healthy but delicious as well. Think about the difference in taste between canned, jarred or even frozen vegetables and the real thing fresh from the prodce aisle or your garden, and it is easy to understand why kinds who are fed primarily pre-packaged foods hate vegetables! I would not like peas either if I only knew them as brown mush from a can.
Why Choose Organic?
If you are reading this article you probably already know that organically grown produce is better for the environment, our health, and especially better for our kids’ health. Organic farmers do not use toxic chemical pesticides or herbicides, instead they use crop rotation and natural fertilizers like composted manure to add nutrients to the soil, instead of synthetic and petroleum based fertilizers. Conventional farming robs the soil of nutrients, kills off the bacteria and microbes that are necessary for healthy soil and relies on chemical additives to feed their plants. Many organic farmers consider themselves “soil farmers” because their focus is on maintaining healthy soil with good levels of beneficial bacteria, microbes, fungi and all the nutrients their crops need.
Babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable to the toxic chemicals that are used in conventional farming. Even low levels of these toxins can have far reaching effects on babies’ and kids’ long term health. The worst offenders are the pesticides and herbicides that are sprayed on fields to kill bugs and weeds. The most well-known is Round Up or glyphosate, a carcinogen and potential endocrine disrupting chemical that is used to kill weeds. It is especially common on GMO crops like soy and corn, which have been genetically modified to to be “Round up Resistant” so that farmers can douse a field to kill weeds without killing their crop. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible in our modern world to avoid exposure to these chemicals entirely. They are fat-soluble, so they are stored in our bodies fat reserves and even in breast milk. Luckily for us and for our kids, eating organic produce nurtures our bodies natural detoxification systems and makes it possible to flush out the toxins stored in our fat cells and in our blood.
The Dirty Dozen
Nobody is perfect, and even if we choose organic much of the time, it is nearly impossible to avoid conventionally grown produce 100% of the time. The Environmental Working Group has put together a list of the 12 crops that have the highest levels of pesticide residue in lab tests. These are the ones that you should always buy organic. These fruits and vegetables are either sprayed with more chemicals during the growing process, or they absorb and retain more than average. In 2017, the list contains:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Hot Peppers
Baby Food Stages
When shopping for baby food, you will see “Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3” written on the packaging. What does this mean? Baby food is divided up into stages based on the nutritional recommendations for babies of certain ages.
Stage 1 foods are for babies age 4-6 months. Stage 1 consists of single ingredient purees. These purees should be very smooth with no lumps or complicated textures. They do not contain meat, eggs or dairy – Only fruits, vegetables or single cereals like oats. It is best to feed your baby single ingredients at a time so that you can keep an eye out for food allergies or sensitivities. Wait a few days before introducing new foods during this stage. Once you know your baby is not sensitive to particular foods, you can start mixing it up with blends. Keep in mind that during Stage 1, your baby’s main source of nutrition should still be breast milk. Stage 1 is about introducing new flavors and textures to your bay, and giving them a chance to get comfortable with using their mouth for eating. Don’t be surprised if they spit out most of what you feed them during this time – Learning to spit food out is an important milestone on the road to chewing and swallowing!
Stage 2 foods are for babies aged 6-8 months. Stage 2 foods are fruit, vegetable and grain blends. These contain around two to four ingredients, and may e strained instead of pureed. this gives Stage 2 foods a bit more texture as your baby is starting to learn how to chew and swallow. Your baby will probably start eating more than they spit out during this time, so stage 2 foods often com in larger containers than Stage 1.
Stage 3 foods are for babies 8-10 months old and up. These are more complex blends, with a lot of texture and new foods in them. They may contain dairy, meat or eggs, but there are also vegetarian options since a lot of parents choose not to introduce animal products until after one year or later. Stage 3 foods will be mashed instead of strained and pureed, and may have small chunks of soft foods in them. This will give your baby the opportunity to really learn how to chew, as well as start using their own fork and spoon when they eat.
After Stage 3, your baby will start to have the dexterity and the teeth to be able to try chunkier foods. Make sure to always cut their food up into tiny pieces, as even chunks as big as a peanut can be a choking hazard. In this article, you will find baby food for all three stages and beyond. Each brand is unique in their vision and the way they process their foods, and I am sure you will find one that suits your needs perfectly in the list below. If you want to see more options, click here to browse all organic baby food brands.
1. Earth’s Best Organics: The First Complete Line Of Organic Infant Food
Earth’s Best is one of the most well known brands of organic baby food, and was one of the first to be certified organic. They have been creating yummy organic foods for baby and toddler since 1985. All of their foods are 100% certified organic and GMO free. Earth’s Best works with indvidual farmers to ensure the highest level of quality and nutrition in the ingredients they use. On their website they list four of these farms and give a brief bio and description of how their farming practices provide the best tasting fruits and veggies with optimal levels of nutrition – without the use of toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Earth’s Best has a large selection of products for infants, toddlers and kids. If you are unable to breast feed, you can still feed your baby organic with Earth’s Best infant formula. They have three different types to choose from – dairy based, soy based, and sensitive digestion. All of their formulas hav DHA added to help baby’s brain and eye development. Once your baby is ready to start solids, you can choose from different single and multi grain cereals. They also have a line of over 60 fruit and vegetable purees in cans or pouches, both single ingredients for Stage 1, blends for Stage 2 and chunky blends for Stage 3. Stage 2 and 3 blends sometimes may have grains, meat or dairy added to them as well, such as the Spaghetti with Cheese, Apple Turkey Cranberry and Green Beans & Brown Rice flavors.
For older babies, Earth’s Best has a whole line of pre-prepared finger foods. There are over 50 options to choose from, with products such as yogurt smoothie pouches, finger cookies and crackers, freeze dried fruits and veggies to snack on, whole grain and fruit snack bars, graham cracker sticks, and even entrees such as spaghetti and breakfasts like mini waffles or pancakes. These foods are great for older kids too, as a snack or to include in their school lunch box.
Overall, Earth’s Best is a great brand for organic baby and toddler foods. They take great care in ensuring that all of the ingredients they use are not only organic, but provide optimal nutrition and flavor as well. Their wide line of baby food and toddler food options gives you a nice selection to choose from based on your personal dietary preferences and your kids’ tastes, and they are less expensive than other organic baby food brands as well.
Watch a video about the history of Earth’s Best here.
2. Plum Organics: For Baby, Tots And Kids
Plum Organics is another well loved brand, with classic baby food purees as well as innovative new snack products for older babies and teething. Plum Organics’ Food Philosophy is to help babies from pregnancy through two years to develop a taste for healthy foods. Their baby and kid foods include simple, organic ingredients such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. On their website they break down the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life and explain how each milestone – Pregnancy, Year One and Year Two – can affect your child’s tastes and food preferences for life.
Plum Organics is best known for their puree pouches, or “pouchies” as toddlers love to call them. They cover all stages of development, including single ingredient Stage 1 pouches, simple blends for Stage 2 and more complex blends for older babies including ingredients like yogurt. Plum’s “Grow Well” line of blended purees features carefully selected ingredients to help address the main concerns parents have for their little ones on the first year of life. These include digestive support, which is so important while baby gets used to new foods, as well as bone and muscle development and ensuring proper levels of DHA, which supports healthy brain and vision development.
Plum also has a fun line of pouches called “Eat Your Colors”. This line features fruits and veggies that are a particular color – beets, apples and red peppers for red; cauliflower, leek and apple for white; kiwis, apples and peas for green, etc. This is a fun way to help kids learn different colors and get used to new flavors.
Once your baby is old enough to start finger foods, they will love Plum’s “Super Puffs”. These are bite sized whole grain snacks that are made with organic grains, veggies and fruit. Super Puffs are the perfect size for tiny fingers, and easily dissolve in baby’s mouth. For older kids, Plum also offers “Mashups” – blends of fruit and vegetable purees as a snack, or “Fruit & Veggie Shredz”, which are like a fun version of fruit snacks with no high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or preservatives.
Watch a review video here.
3. Happy Baby: Total Nutrition For Babies And Toddlers
Happy Baby is part of the Happy Family Organics brand line. Happy Family includes products for moms including prenatal snacks and supplements, infant formula and baby’s first foods, and snacks for toddlers and kids. Happy Baby started in 2003 when the founder saw her friends struggling with a lack of healthy options for baby food. After succeeding in bringing quality, organic baby foods to market, they expanded into Happy Family and offer healthy foods for all ages of development. Happy Baby started with premium organic frozen baby food purees, and has come out with innovative products ever since. Their Happy Bellies Probiotic Cereal was the first organic baby cereal on the market to be optimized with probiotics (for healthy digestion) and DHA (for brain and eye development), and continues to be the best selling nationwide. Happy Baby was the first to introduce pouches to the baby food market as well – And as you can see by this list alone, pouches have really taken off and become the #1 most popular way of storing baby food. They are light weight, easy to store and carry, and let older babies feed themselves mess-free. Happy Baby came out with some of the first gluten free baby products as well, recognizing that introduction of gluten too early on can lead to painful digestive intolerances that can last a lifetime.
Happy Baby’s puree pouches come in a wide variety of flavors for Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 feeding. They have a great line of pouches called “Clearly Crafted” that feature a clear plastic window so that you can see the vibrant color of the food inside. Instead of bland brown mush, your baby gets bring purples, oranges, greens, blues and reds featuring single ingredients like prunes or mangoes, or yummy blends like pear/pumpkin/passion fruit or banana/raspberry/oat. Happy Baby also offers infant formula and probiotic baby cereal for the first few months of life and baby’s first taste of food.
If you are sick of the same old crackers and snacks for your toddler, you will love Happy Baby’s line of teething and toddler treats. Their Gentle Teething Wafers are perfect for teething babies. Made of jasmine rice flour, fruits and vegetables, these wafers dissolve easily in baby’s mouth and are the perfect size for little hands to grip. Happy Baby’s Superfood Puffs are a great option for babies who are learning to feed themselves as well. Unlike other puffs that are full of artificial coloring, flavoring and preservatives, these puffs are made of organic rice flours and organic powdered fruits and veggies, with vitamins and minerals added. For a special treat, try out Happy Baby’s Yogis or Coconut Creamies. Yogis are little drops of freeze dried yogurt and fruit – Way better than candy! Coconut Creamies are dairy free and are so delicious you may find yourself raiding the diaper bag to snack on them!
For toddlers, HappyTot has a line of snacks that are considered “Stage 4” with toddler nutrition in mind. These include toddler formula, pouches and crispy veggie snacks. The HappyTot snacks are divided into five categories – Superfoods, Love My Veggies, Fiber and Protein, Super Smart and Morning Meals. All of these are optimized to have the ideal blend of nutrition for growing toddlers.
Products Included: Prenatal Snacks and Supplements; Formula; Probiotic Infant Cereal; Puree Pouches for Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3; Teething Wafers; Yogurt Drops; Dairy-Free Coconut Creamies; Superfood Puffs; Toddler Snacks
Watch a video of a happy baby trying Happy Baby teethers here.
4. Once Upon A Farm: High Pressure Pasteurized (HPP) Puree Pouches
Pre-packaged baby food and snacks are super convenient and great for on the go snacks, but one of the biggest disadvantages to buying pre-packaged food is that the high heat pasteurization process destroys a high percentage of nutrients in the food, including vitamins, minerals, probiotic bateria, digestive enzymes and more. Choosing organic lessens the damage, since organic foods have a higher vitamin and mineral value overall, but they still lose a fair amount of nutrition through pasteurization. Fresh food is best for digestion and overall health, which is why many parents choose to make their own baby food. Once Upon A Farm is a new organic baby food company that is using an innovative new technology to minimize the damage done by pasteurization. Their baby food pouches are processed using High Pressure Pascalization, or HPP. Standard baby foods are processed to such a degree that they do not exppire for years, giving them a dull color and overly sweet or bland flavor. Once Upon A Farm purees use the freshest organic USA grown produce (check out their site for a map of farms) and are found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Their shelf life of 60 days (instead of 2 years) tells you that the ingredients are super fresh and minimally processed to preserve nutrition, taste and texture.
Once Upon A Farm blends are considered Stage 2 or Stage 3 baby foods. Each puree includes a creamy blend of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats for balanced nutrition, optimal nutrient absorption and healthy brain development. For example, their Green Kale & Apples includes kale, apples, bananas and hemp seeds. The pouches that these purees come in are BPA Free, Phthalate Free, PVC free and Eco-Friendly.
Products Included: HPP Processed, Refrigerated Puree Blend Pouches (Stage 2/3)
Watch a interview with the creator of Once Upon A Farm here.
5. Sprout Organics: Real Whole Foods For Baby
Sprout Organics is another awesome brand of baby foods and snacks that uses all whole foods, no concentrates, no GMO ingredients, no preservatives and 100% organic ingredients. Sprout also claims to be the first company to have introduced “pouches” to the market in 2008. They state their mission as introducing a love of healthy, whole organic foods to kids early on so that they continue to love healthy options later in life. What’s not to love about that? Sprout products start with baby purees, including Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3. Stage 1 pouches are single ingredients like Sweet Potato or Prunes. Stage 2 are delicious blends like Sweet Potato/White Bean/Cinnamon or Peach/Banana/Quinoa/Raisin. Stage 3 are full meals such as Creamy Vegetables with Chicken.
For toddlers, older kids and even adults, Sprout organics has you covered with yummy snacks. Their Toddler Pouches are filled with nutrient dense ingredients like Buckwheat, Amaranth, Butternut Squash blended with delicious fruits and veggies. They even have a line of pouches that is designed to satisfy the whole family – From baby to kid and even mom and dad!
And of course, we cannot forget solid snacks for babies and tots who are old enough to feed themselves. Sprout’s Crispy Chews are a fun and yummy mix between fruit snacks and crispy snacks, and their Curlz mimic cheese puffs but without the non-food ingredients! They are made of organic grains and natural flavorings. Sprout also has their own variety of Puffs, but unlike other brands theirs are made with super nutritious, protein packed quinoa.
Watch a review video here.
6. Peter Rabbit: Organic Puree Pouches
Peter Rabbit Organics by Pumpkin Tree Snacks is a baby food line that is dedicated to bringing the very best quality to the “Pouch” market. Peter Rabbit brings to mind images of a springtime garden with fresh produce like carrots, peas, cabbages, kale and more. Those same fresh, organic ingredients are what you will find in every pouch of Peter Rabbit purees. According to their website, every ingredient they use is 100% USDA certified organic and they use nothing but fruits and vegetables. That means no additives, no “natural flavorings”, no preservatives, nothing! This is a great brand for their pure, fresh transparency. These yummy pouches come in a ton of different flavors, from sweet fruit blends to savory veggies. They are perfect for on the go snacking.
Products Included: Fruit and Vegetable Puree Pouches
Watch a review video here.
7. Ella’s Kitchen: Sweet And Simple Purees and Snacks
Ella’s Kitchen is a UK based international company that sells organic baby and toddler foods across the US, Canada and Europe. The story behind Ella’s Kitchen is one you hear a lot in this industry. The company was founded when Paul, Ella’s dad, found it difficult to provide nutritious and delicious food for his daughter with the baby foods that were available. He started Ella’s Kitchen in order to provide a better option for her daughter and all other kids around the world. His mission was to help kids “discover that healthy food can be fun, tasty and cool.” Ella’s Kitchen approaches food from a child’s point of view, with their tastes and preferences in mind. This is clear in their yummy recipes, as well as the names of their products and their fun, bold and colorful packaging.
Ella’s products are divided into four categories – Ella’s 1 for babies 4 months and up (Stage 1), Ella’s 2 for babies 6 months and up (Stage 2 and 3), 1+ Years, and Big Kids. Ella’s 1 includes single fruit and veggie purees like “mangoes mangoes mangoes” or “pears pears pears.” Ella’s 2 includes “Stage 2” fruit and veggie blends like “Apples Sweet Potatoes Pumpkin + Blueberries“, and Stage 3 blends with meat and/or dairy such as “chick chick Chicken Casserole with vegetables and rice“.
For older babies 12 months and up, Ella’s Kitchen has a line of crispy toddler snacks that your baby or toddler can grasp and easily feed to themselves. These include crackers, cookies, whole grain puffs, and “nibbly fingers,” which are like long crackers. Ella’s also has a fun toddler line of fruit blends based on color, such as “The Red One,” “The Yellow One” and so on, which have a more textured feel than their baby purees.
Watch a review video of their older baby snacks here.
8. NurturMe: Quality Organics From Four Months to Four Years
NurturMe is a truly unique brand of baby food that offers an innovative solution to the problems of high heat pasteurization. As I mentioned above, high heat pasteurization is used for the majority of shelf-stable baby food products. this process destroys a significant amount of the nutritional value found in organic fruits and veggies, which is why so many parents choose to cook their own organic baby food instead of buying pre-packaged. HPP or high pressure pasteurizing is one solution, but the end product must be refrigerate, so you lose a lot of convenience. You cannot just stick HPP processed foods into your diaper bag for a long day out. This is where NurturMe comes in. Their baby food purees are freeze dried instead of wet packaged and pasteurized. Freeze dried food is flash-dehydrated with no heat or pressure, so the nutrients and even the bright, vibrant colors of the foods are fully retained. Freeze dried food has as much of the nutritional value intact as frozen food does, but with the added benefit of being shelf-stable at room temperature.
NurturMe’s organic baby food packets come in a variety of flavors, including fruits, vegetables and grains. These blends are considered Stage 2 feeding because they contain two to four ingredients. Preparation is super simple, just add a bit of water and stir. You can then use a owl and spoon to feed your baby, or you can use one of NurturMe’s reusable snack pouches. You can add more or less water depending on your baby’s age and preference – More water for a smoother consistency, less water for more texture. You can also use the packets as flavoring in homemade bay and toddler food recipes, or as a nutritional boost for condiments and sauces.
Although NurturMe started out as a line of entirely freeze dried baby foods, they have expanded into other areas in recent years. They offer a Protein-Packed Quinoa Baby Cereal as an alternative to rice or oats. The cereal comes in four flavors – Plain, Banana, Apple, and Raisin Sweet Potato.
Older babies and toddlers love their bite sized freeze-dried fruit + veggie Yum-A-Roo snacks, as well as their Quinoa Squares featuring crispy puffed grains. For Pouchie lovers, NurturMe also has Power Blends: fruit, vegetable and ancient grain blend puree pouches.
9. Beech Nut: Organic, Plastic Free Purees
Beech Nut baby food is one of the only pre-packaged organic baby food brands that still offers food in glass jars. Jarred baby food has become less popular in recent years since the invention of the “pouch,” since glass is breakable and heavy. However, if you are concerned about chemicals like BPA, phthalates, and other endocrine disruptors leaching into your baby’s food, you might not be so enthusiastic about plastic pouches! Even BPA-free plastics are known to contain hormone disrupting chemicals like BPS, which can sometimes be even more harmful than BPA, even if they do not get the same media coverage. The bottom line for many parents is the fact that these chemicals are still being tested to determine their safety or lack thereof, and babies are much more sensitive to their effects than adults. Many parents are not willing to take that risk, and prefer to use glass over plastic. Beech Nut has not shunned the pouch craze entirely, however. You have the option to purchase their delicious organic purees in either glass jars or pouches for on the go snacking.
Beech Nut is a small company from New York that believes in real food made with whole ingredients. They also also have a commitment to the environment, and are Leed Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. This means that all Beech nut foods are made in an energy efficient building, where they take steps to minimize their impact in water usage, waste disposal and recycling. On their website you can read about their low-heat cooking process, which retains more freshness and nutritional value than high-heat cooking. Beech Nut purees are cold blended and then cooked with indirect heat, so that the flavor and nutrients of the food are not watered down. They also use a unique vacuum process to seal their jars, eliminating the need for added preservatives. Beech Nut takes uses the highest quality ingredients, sourcing locally when possible, and it is great that they put as much thought into their processing as they do their sourcing.
Watch a product video here.
10. Pure Spoon: Refrigerated HPP Baby Food Purees
Last but not least, here is one of my personal favorite baby food companies. Pure Spoon Organics is another company that as created out of the parents’ disappointment with options for their daughter in the baby food aisle. In the words of Pure Spoon’s founder: “Nothing on the shelf looked like anything I would eat, so why feed it to my daughter? It wasn’t fresh food and certainly didn’t look, smell or taste fresh. Many of the choices had a shelf-life of a year or more- yuck! More importantly, the baby food lacked the nutrition, taste and texture fresh food offers.” Pure Spoon uses HPP or high pressure pasteurization and is refrigerated with a shorter shelf life than jarred or “pouched” baby foods. This is the key to the freshness and vitality of their foods, which look delicious enough for any adult to want to eat! HPP processing is super innovative, and Pure Spoon was the first company to bring this new technology to baby food. Pure Spoon products are found in the refrigerated aisle, where fresh food belongs!
Pure Spoon’s offerings are simple – Stage 1 and Stage 2 purees, made with fresh, organic fruits and veggies. You can purchase them in bulk packs to store in your fridge so that you always have a wide variety of yummy options for your little one to eat. Pure Spoon products are perfect for parents who want to feed their kids the freshest and healthiest options but do not always have time to prepare baby food from scratch.
Products Included: Stage 1 and Stage 2 Purees, HPP Processed and refrigerated for maximum freshness
Watch a video about the background of Pure Spoon here.
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